The 105lbs division, called either Minimumweight or Strewweight by most, is the lightest in the sport, and in 2019 it had a stinking year. There was so little that happened at the top that it's easy to forget that two world titles changed hands and that the rest of the division really went over looked. Thankfully, for those paying attention, it was also the division with one of the biggest upsets of the year and a division that has seen 3 sensational talents begin their rise to the top.
To start the new we'll again be breaking down the divisions in the sport, starting with the champions in the Minimumweight division!
WBC - Wanehng Menayothin (54-0, 18)
Unbeaten Thai Wanehng Menayothin comes into the year seeking his 13th world title defense and his 55th professional win. The talented Thai, who has gone unbeaten since his 2007 debut, may not be a big name but on paper his record certainly looks impressive. He had a relatively quiet 2019, fighting just twice, but wins over Tatsuya Fukuhara and Simpiwe Koncko were solid and helped establish him as the best of the bunch. He has signed a deal with Golden Boy Promotions and clearly the hope is to fight in the US, but with his 35th birthday later this year it seems likely that time is running out on Wanheng's hopes of becoming a household name.
WBA - Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7)
WBA Champion Knockout CP Freshmart had a year to forget, with just one fight, a win against ArAr Andales, on his ledger for 2019. Much more is expected of the Thai though the reality is that his career has really toiled in recent years. He was once seen as the better of the two Thai's but he's not shined in a long time and with 5 straight decision wins, 7 decisions in his last 8, his name is becoming a joke. It may be that he needs some easy fights in 2020 get going again, but whatever it is he seems like a the low hanging fruit from the two Thai's that sit atop the division.
WBO - Wilfredo Mendez (15-1, 5)
Puerto Rican fighter Wilfredo Mendez was one of two new champions crowned in 2019, when he out pointed Vic Saludar. A the age of 23 he is certainly fresh blood in the division, and with 4 fights in 2019 he was a breath of fresh air in a division that didn't have much going for it last year. Sadly his first defense, a narrow win over Mexican teenager Axel Aragon Vega, made it clear that his reign wasn't going to be a distinguished one. He likely already has a target on his back as someone with a title that can be taken relatively easily and we wouldn't be surprised to see fighters battling to get their hands on Mendez in the new year.
IBF - Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11)
Another newer champion, having won the IBF title that Deejay Kriel vacated, Pedro Taduran is arguably the wild card of the champions. He lost a competitive bout to Wanheng in 2018 but has bounced back well and won the IBF title with a brilliant win over Samuel Salva. He's the only of the champions that would be described as a power puncher, and although crude as a fighter he's an aggressive nightmare who can take a shot and refuses to back off. Technically he's crude, and can be tagged, but his work rate, power and physicality make him an absolute nightmare to fight.
In part 2 we'll look at 6 of the contenders and prospects who we expect to make a mark on the division in 2020.
The Minimumweight division is a criminally over-looked division, due to the fact many fans, especially those in the west, don't have the access to know who's who, and instead see the fighters as under-sized and lacking the power and skills to be worthy of watching. The reality however is that the division, right now, is a very interesting one.
We recently looked at the champions in the division, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions", which range from the under-powered IBF champion Carlos Licona to the dangerous WBO champion Vic Saludar to the longest active reigning world champion in boxing.
Now we have a look at a number of the leading contenders in the division.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura is expected to fight for the WBC title in Spring and has so far been very impressive. He won the Rookie of the Year before becoming the OPBF champion and is now widely regarded as a leading contender. He's skilled, quick and heavy handed but now needs to show it at the highest level
Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7)
The 29 year old Tatsuya Fukuhara is a former Japanese and WBO champion who is technically a bit limited, but has an amazing work rate, a real toughness and a willingness to travel for big fights. It's expected that he'll get another world title shot in 2019, and he'll be a handful for any champion.
Simphiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7)
South African fighter Simpiwe Konkco is a tricky fighter with a good work rate and proven world class skills who has lost just once in the last 8 years, with that loss coming to Hekkie Budler. Despite that good form it is worth noting Konkco has had a hard career and has racked up a lot of tough rounds in recent years. Perhaps he's just on the slide now.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
With 2 losses in 13 bouts it would be easy to write Masataka Taniguchi off, however his losses have both been razor close and have come to the aforementioned Koura and Reiya Konishi. He's a handful for anyone and is really chasing a world title fight, with the WBO title likely to be his target following his recent victory for the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1)
Highly skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga is one of the sports most natural boxer's, regardless of weight, with fantastic timing and a very high ring IQ. Sadly though what Barriga has in defensive movement and he lacks in power and every bout he has is likely to go long. If he can't hurt his opponent, or stop them coming forward, as we saw against Licona, he leaves himself open to losing close bouts.
Robert Paradero (17-0, 11)
The unbeaten Robert Paradero is one of the many Filipino fighters on the verges of a title fight, in fact he was supposed to get a world title eliminator earlier in December. The unbeaten Filipino is a 4 year pro, despite only being 22, and seems ready for a big step up in class, which hopefully we see next year.
Joey Canoy (14-3-1-1, 7)
Filipino 25 year old Joey Canoy doesn't have a perfect record but has had a very, very interesting career so far. He's a 6 year pro who has scored very notable wins over Toto Landero and Melvin Jerusalem, dropped Simpiwe Konkco en route to a No Contest and only lost to decent fighters like Hekkie Budler, Jessie Espinas and Jerry Tomogdan. A very interesting contender.
Pedro Taduran (13-2, 10)
Another young Filipino to consider at Minimumweight is Pedro Taduran, who gave Wanheng Menayothin hell earlier this year in a really hotly contest 12 round bout. At 22 Taduran is a boxing baby, but the southpaw has a great work rate, solid power and a real hunger. He just needs to work on his technical skills and if he does that he could go all the way.
Byron Rojas (25-4-3-1, 11)
It's unclear if former WBA champion Byron Rojas will fight at 105lbs much longer, as he looked huge in his recent loss to Knockout CP Freshmart, but if he can make the weight then the 28 year old Nicaraguan does remain a top contender. He has lost twice to Knockout but holds a massive win over Hekkie Budler. A key player in the division if he doesn't move up.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.